MASS VACCINATIONS SCHEDULED AS VIRUS RAGES ON IN NC: At least 718,812 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus and 8,695 have died since March, according to state health officials. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Sunday reported 6,096 new COVID-19 cases, down from 7,181 reported the day before. On Sunday, 109 coronavirus-related deaths were reported. At least 3,303 people in North Carolina were reported hospitalized with the coronavirus as of Sunday. Many hospitals and local health departments in North Carolina will receive fewer or no new coronavirus vaccine doses from the state this week, forcing them to cancel hundreds of vaccination appointments. A large portion of the state’s 120,000 doses this week will instead go toward mass vaccination events.
GOVERNOR COOPER SIGNS AGREEMENT WITH CATAWBA TRIBE OVER CASINO: In a Catawba Nation news release, Chief Bill Harris called the agreement the key step in bringing economic benefits and thousands of jobs to North Carolina. Cooper spokesman Ford Porter confirmed on Saturday that the agreement had been signed and sent to the U.S. Department of the Interior. Tribal leaders don’t foresee any special difficulties obtaining federal approval because the agreement with the Cooper administration is “closely modeled after a compact that Interior has approved for another Tribal Nation,” Catawba Nation Tribal Administrator Elizabeth Harris told the newspaper in an email Saturday. The agreement calls for payment terms to the state that are similar to North Carolina’s compact with the Cherokee casinos, Harris added. The Catawba Nation held a groundbreaking for the casino in July and has already done site work needed for construction to start.
JUST 5.6% OF U.S. POPULATION HAS BEEN VACCINATED SO FAR: At least 1 million people have been receiving their first dose of coronavirus vaccine almost every day of the past week as the nation nears the goal of 20 million at least partially vaccinated three weeks after the initial deadline of December. The states and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said just over 10 million people received vaccinations in the first month of the program, but the pace is accelerating in the second month. President Joe Biden has announced a goal of maintaining a pace of 1 million people per day for the first 100 days in office, but some have said that his goal should be higher. A month into coronavirus vaccination nationwide, many states have widened the range of people eligible to receive shots. Supplies of vaccines allocated to states, however, are far below the number of eligible people. There are enough vaccines for just over a third of the prioritized population. Most states have adopted CDC guidelines and are prioritizing health-care workers and nursing home residents and staff. Next up are front-line essential workers, including first responders, teachers, day-care staff, grocery store workers and prison guards, and adults 75 and over, the latest CDC federal guidance recommends. Third in line are those with preexisting conditions such as diabetes, heart problems or obesity, and adults between 65 and 74.
U.S. HOUSE WILL TRANSMIT ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT TO SENATE TODAY: Democratic members of Congress are pressing ahead with preparations for the second impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump, saying there is a “compelling” case for Trump to be convicted of inciting an insurrection and arguing that moving forward with a trial is imperative for the country’s healing. Meanwhile, the fractures within the Republican Party were evident Sunday as GOP senators appeared split over whether it was constitutional to hold an impeachment trial for a president who had already left office. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), one of Trump’s most outspoken GOP critics, stopped short of saying he would vote to convict Trump, while Republican allies of the former president continued to argue that an impeachment trial should be abandoned for the sake of “unity.” Romney did not say whether he would vote to convict Trump, but he did say “there’s no question” that the article prepared by the House suggests impeachable conduct. He said he wanted to hear the president’s defense before deciding. Within his party, Romney was in the minority Sunday. Later on the same show, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) called a second impeachment trial of Trump “stupid” and “bad for America.” On ABC’s “This Week,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) refused to say outright that the election was not stolen, echoing a number of other Republicans who have called for unity but refused to acknowledge that Biden won fairly, thereby perpetuating the falsehood that fueled the Capitol riots. On “Meet the Press,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said whether Trump had committed an impeachable offense was a “moot point” because he is no longer president. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who has argued that holding a trial after the president left office is beyond the Senate’s constitutional authority, said on Fox News that “the more I talk to other Republican senators, the more they’re beginning to line up behind the position I announced a couple weeks ago.” He did not specify which senators.
BIDEN'S ROLLBACK OF TRUMP'S ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE WON'T BE EASY, OR QUICK: It could take two years or more for the administration to restore Obama-era climate change regulations, rolled back by the Trump administration, that were designed to cut emissions of planet-warming pollution across major sectors of the economy. It could also take that long to restore rules on industrial emissions of toxic pollutants such as mercury, as well as a major rule, Waters of the United States, designed to protect wetlands and waterways. The work of reinstating the federal government’s more comprehensive regulations on air, water and climate pollution will take even longer. A key reason, explained legal experts: when the Trump administration rolled back those rules, they almost never eliminated them entirely. Rather, they replaced strict federal pollution regulations with new, weaker pollution regulations. The Biden administration, in turn, will seek to legally undo those weak regulations and replace them with pollution controls even tougher than those implemented by the Obama administration. “It’s a laborious, time-consuming process,” said Richard Revesz, a professor of environmental law at New York University, who was on Mr. Biden’s short list to run the E.P.A. “No one doubts the E.P.A.’s authority to put these regulations on auto pollution back in place,” Mr. Revesz said. “But they can’t just make the Trump rules go away by executive order. They have to follow the same process — preparing all the scientific and economic analyses, and you have to get all that right.” And he noted that after four years in which the staff and budget of the E.P.A. has shrunk, the agency is now being asked to do far more with far fewer resources.